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Why Mac software isn't as visible in stores - and where to find it.

By:David K. Every
©Copyright 1999

There are currently 14,000+ software titles for the Macintosh - which is far far more than the average person needs or could use, and I don't think that includes all of the various shareware and freeware products. So the point is that if you need a Mac to do something, then odds are there is a package out there somewhere to do it.

How does software distribution work?

There are some issues with Mac software distribution that helps with the myth that Macs don't have enough software.

  • Retail caters to top 10%

    Retail sales are about selling the hottest selling top 5-10% of titles. Since Mac versions are usually not considered "the hottest selling", then retail stores tend to do a very poor job of displaying Mac titles. So Mac users learned to buy mail-order or direct (in both cases saving money and giving more options). Stores then weren't getting as many Mac software sales, so reduced their Mac sections even further. So Mac users buy even more software through Mail Order.This cycle means that it is harder to find stores with good Mac software sections - but is not the same as Macs not having enough software.

    Now a large number of software titles are for vertical (specialty) markets. Many of those titles do not need to be on retail shelves -- however, they do exist and are available if you need them. Whether Mac or PC, Mail-Order usually has a better selection and can afford to stock more obscure titles (due to realities of central distribution vs. local distribution).

    There is also a battle for shelf-space at retail stores. Stores often charge software manufacturers for good slots or for just having their products in the store at all -- of course mail-order also has this form of extortion. Hopefully direct sales and competition will drive the costs of this payola down! (These costs are passed on to the consumers one way or another).
  • Installation / Reliability

    Since it is easier to install software on a Mac, and there are many many less compatibility issues or conflicts with Mac software, this lead to more people buying mail order. In the PC world you never know if your software will work, so you want to buy local to get support and have somewhere to take the software back when it fails. (This is an illusion since mail-order often has more liberal return policies, and often better support, but we are talking about perceptions and motivations - not reality). So PC users are much more mentally trapped into buying their software locally because of the lack of reliability or predictability.

    PC users have also learned (the hard way) not to take any chances or experiment too much with software (they'll get bit), so they buy the safest way (locally), and always ask someone else for their opinions, and are very conservative about purchases. Mac Users on the other hand are sometimes too flamboyant, and too willing to install too much software, including things that patch the system or users who put 300 different pieces of shareware gotten off the "net" on their machines, and often are much more self-motivated to buy and install software. (This is why Mac users tend to run twice as many titles per machine as PC users).
  • Hybrids

    There are also many hybrid software packages on the store shelves. These packages will run on either a Mac or a PC but are often stocked in the PC section. PC users are often unaware of this and so assume that Macs have fewer options than they really do. Mac users are often savvy enough to know of this, and so will wander gleefully into the PC section and find the Mac (hybrid) packages they need. The stores ring these sales up as PC sales - which does a double cheat on the Mac (it credits the PC software market with a sale that it didn't get, and cheats the Mac out of a sale that it did get). This makes many of the marketing numbers biased against Mac. Software companies themselves know better based on registration of software - but there is another issue here. Marketing companies (like the SPA) who track sales, often do so by polling only the largest companies for their sales, or by only checking the largest distributors. Since many Mac software companies are smaller or do more mail order, or get hybrids mis-credited, the Mac software market is again made to seem smaller than it really is.


So the point is that Mac software does exist - but that PC users (or newbies) are unaware that it exists and where to find it.

Where to find Mac Software

LinksMac Software links

Created: 02/05/97
Updated: 11/09/02

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